Review: The Beginning Of After by Jennifer Castle

The Beginning Of After is a heartbreaking story that strips grief and loss down to its barest and most raw form to show the upward, grueling journey one must take in order to live and thrive in the “After.” I loved the title of this book and found it an incredibly accurate descriptor for how one who grieves categorizes time, memories and events and Castle did a great job of showing what the “beginning of after” is like in a tragic situation.

I mentioned before in reviews of books with similar themes that I find myself always, as someone who has lost a parent and experience what it is like to fully grieve that loss, being even more critical when it comes to stories of grief in YA literature. Everyone’s grief is different but yet, at its most bare form, it shares many similar characteristics that those who have grieved can recognize from their story of grief. I look for it. I do. And I have to say that Jennifer Castle was able to deliver a realistic portrait of the grieving process that shook me to my core and stirred up some overwhelming emotions for me…although not enough to cry which surprises me. It was raw and honest, rather than contrived, and I found myself shaking my head to passages that looked as though they could have been ripped from the pages of my journal. I wished for a little bit more of the “in her head” moments because I think that dialogue really could have added more to it but I did find these little moments to resonate deeply.

But that might be where this novel could fall flat for some. A few people, during a conversation on Twitter, found that they just could not connect at all and felt as though they were missing something because they hadn’t experienced something like this. For as much as I could feel it, I could see how some might find it hard to connect to a huge propelling force in this book if that hadn’t experienced it and maybe in some ways the narrative failed to provide those places for (those who haven’t experienced that kind of loss) to actually feel as though they HAD like a story really should. This is where I think more internal dialogue could have really helped. It’s hard to understand why she’s fixating more on a boy from class taking her to prom then her grief if you don’t understand the thought process behind it like someone grieving might. It’s that facade of normalcy that you are trying to achieve while repressing some of your inner turmoil.

But strangely, while I connected so emotionally to this journey of grief, I did not find myself connected to the main characters. Laurel and I had that grief in common yet I felt as though I couldn’t quite break through to really care about her. I felt like I just didn’t care where the story ended up, I was bored and felt as though it just kept dragging on and not really going anywhere at all. I wanted to root for her to triumph through her grief but there were few things in the story that really motivated me to do aside from my own personal connections which wasn’t as powerful for me as some other YA books dealing with grief. I kept losing interest and it never really stood out for me nor provided me with unforgettable characters. I liked it and felt some obvious connections to the grief, but in the end, that was about it. I had really high hopes for this one and I’m not really sure why it fell flat for me ultimately.

Review On A Post-It:

Other perspectives:

Miss Remmers’ Review
Books With Bite
I Swim For Oceans

* I received this book from review from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and in no way had an effect on what I’ve written in regards to this book.

Here’s a guest post with Jennifer Castle that I featured this week.

Have you read this one? Did you have a different experience with it than I did? What are some other YA books you’ve read with similar themes?

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. This book looks great! Great review 🙂

    Come stop by and enter my giveaway for a chance to win ann ARC or some swag 😀

  2. Sheila (Bookjourney) says:

    I like the review on the post it. Bummer it wasnt better for you.

  3. Bri Meets Books says:

    The cover is really pretty..but I feel like I've read this story before. Then the rest of me says, well, every story has been told before, it's all in the telling, and because of the premise, I'm willing to give it a shot, but not being able to connect with a book is a big giveaway in a review of whether I will like it. Was it that the character wasn't developed enough? Was it superficial?

  4. Amazing cover, great review.
    Thanks for this 🙂

  5. Megan Swicegood says:

    I'm disappointed to hear it fell flat for you, I had high expectations for this one. Great review, thanks for sharing.

    Megan @ Read It, See It

  6. This one fell flat for me, because it didn't really feel like a book about grief or loss. It felt like a book about a teenage girl trying to figure out the boy thing, and Oh hey, btw, my family all died and that sucked.

    That's a bit harsher than I actually felt, but while the actual parts of the book that focused on Laurel's grief were strong and well written, the rest of it just didn't work for me, didn't feel like it really had a place.

    But great review Jamie! It would be much harder/different to read these books having gone through a huge loss like that.

  7. I'm right there with you on this one. It totally lacked the emotion and connectivity that I was thinking/hoping it would.


  1. […] The Beginning of After was a highly anticipated read for me and, I can’t explain it, but I just read the summary and it sounded like very much a Jamie book. It was GOOD but it was not great or wonderful like I expected it to be.  Just never quite made it there for me though so many people I know loved it. […]